Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Shooting the messenger

I was going to post about the hyped-up Orange Bowl coverage, but I'll save that for later. My mind is on West Virginia now. With what happened down there, some people are pointing their fingers to the press, blaming them for the miscommunication that 12 of the 13 miners survived. After all, didn't the reporters just take an unconfirmed rumor and run with it?

It's hard to take something as unconfirmed when you see the miners' families and the governor telling you that most of the miners survived. But everyone was duped. The families, praying for a miracle, thought they had one. And when everyone saw the cheering, crying family members, it was hard to think that anything bad happened.

Am I excusing the reporting of the rumor? Not fully. A while ago, a hardened newspaper correspondent told me that journalism is a discipline of verification. She was right. We report what people say, and we scrutinize our sources to make sure what we say is right. When the rumor started circulating, someone should've went to the mining company, or the rescue team, and asked if the rumor was true.

But when you've got the families and the governor telling you the miners survived, it's hard to think otherwise.

UPDATE: Reporters did ask the mine company to confirm the rumors, but the company sat on the information for too long.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody gives a crap that the public at large was led to believe the miners survived. The issue is the families that thought they had made it. Who told them? The clods running the rescue effort. No member of the press corps told any miner's loved ones about anything.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Tom Carten said...

From the mine owners to the media, this reminds me of the Titanic reporting situation. There was a lot of miscommunication with the company due to the vagaries of wireless in those days. So the company had a combination of incomplete, misleading and false information. Company representative P.A.S. Franklin, knowing the ship could survive a mid-hull collision and assuming this was no worse, confidently told people (with the erroneous wireless reports at hand) that the ship was intact. Only later did he, in tears, have to tell the media that it was lost with great loss of life.

It appears, on this Wednesday noon, that we have much the same situation. What complicates it is the people who knew all was lost were in the midst of rejoicing families and, not having all the information themselves, had to withhold the terrible, but sketchy, details until later. Like Mr. Franklin, they felt assured by the first reports that all was well, then could not go into the happy church with not enough information.

A tragedy all around, to be sorted out later.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After discussing this topic today with co-workers, you really hit the nail on the head. There is no way that the media can be fully blamed for the mistake, but that does not give them the right to declare it without double checking. It was an awful ordeal and my prayers go to all the families. It just shows how one piece of false information can spark into something so huge.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the families are probably blind with grief and no one can blame them for lashing out at whoever, rationally or otherwise, but the fact of the matter is what happened in terms of the "miscommunication" was very likely some form of hysteria and there's a chance that no one said there were 12 live miners, but that doesn't mean that someone didn't hear that.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First and foremost my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the miners. I can't imagine a worst ending to a search.

Let's remember the media only reports what it is told, it wasn't like a reporter made up this story and then others reported on it. With that said, I would say expect more of this type of problem in the future. It is just a result of our new live 24 hour news coverage, doesn't make it right, it is what it is....

9:23 AM  

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